The Catcher in the Rye


Points to Ponder

Discuss the significance of the carousel near the end of the story.

The carousel is significant for two reasons. In one sense it serves as a metaphor for life, which keeps going round in circles, while everyone tries to reach out and grab the gold ring—even though the ring exceeds their grasp. But reaching for something that exceeds one’s grasp is what the poet Robert Browning says one must do—“or else what’s a heaven for?” so he writes. Salinger appears to agree with the assessment. After all, it is only at this moment, after patching things up with Phoebe, that Holden really feels blissful and whole—watching Phoebe reach for the ring while spinning round on the carousel.

The carousel is also significant because it represents one of the loves of childhood. Holden recalls many loves from his own childhood: Allie and the poetic baseball glove, Jane Gallagher, D. B. and his stories, Phoebe and her stories. The carousel is something that Phoebe loves. It is something outside of Holden’s self—and, like the record which he also purchased for Phoebe, it is circular and complete. The carousel completes their make-up and when he buys her a ticket (with her money, of course) he shows that he wants her to be happy.

Holden longs to have a serious conversation with someone throughout the course of the novel. Ironically, when he reaches Mr. Antolini’s house (a man who is also interested in serious conversation); he is too exhausted to have much of one. And then, of course, he is frightened by Mr. Antolini’s behavior and does not return to finish the conversation. What, however, in your opinion, does Holden want to discuss?

Holden tries to have serious conversations a number of times. First, he tries with Old Spencer, but sees it is no use and all he can do is try to make the old man not feel so bad. He tries with Ackley when he asks whether anyone can join a monastery, but Ackley only responds as if he were stupid. He tries with Stradlater, but Stradlater...

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Essays About The Catcher in the Rye